The Cake Fiasco

Posted January 20, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

Tags: , ,

My husband is a cake person. Several months ago he bought a cake mix to have on hand when his sweet tooth came calling. Last Sunday, he decided he needed cake. I was fine with that as long as he made it. I looked at the ingredients to see what was needed. Water. Three eggs. Seven tablespoons of butter and the cake mix. WHAT? Water? Butter? I asked what kind of cake mix he bought. He answered that it looked like the one I usually buy. No, not really. To help, I greased and floured the cake pan, preheated the oven, and headed to the office to write a book review.

Shouting between kitchen and office began.

Husband: What bowl do I use?

Me: The mixing bowl in the bottom cabinet.

Husband:  Do I melt the butter and stir it in the cake mix?

Me:  Did you read the directions?

Husband:  What spoon do I use to make sure the butter gets mixed in?


Husband:  Where’s the mixer?

Me:  In the pantry where it always is.

Husband: This batter doesn’t look right.

Me:  Did you follow all the directions?

Husband: Yes. It’s ready to put into the pan.

Me:  Do it.

Husband:  How do I set the timer?

Me:  I’m coming.

After that, it was quiet for a while. Until…

Husband:  The oven is off!

A fuse blew. We reset everything, hoping the cake would survive.

About 20 minutes later, I heard the timer go off. The next thing I heard was a crash and my husband loudly expressing himself.

Me:  What happened? I yelled, running to the kitchen.   

My husband put the grip side of the oven mitt on wrong. The cake pan slipped out of his hands.

Grip Side
Slip Side

I looked at the mess. My only reaction was to laugh at the cake fiasco. I laughed so hard I cried.

Later that evening, we enjoyed a plate of crumby cake hidden beneath ice cream and fruit.

Clearly, from the events of the day, my husband conveniently forgot everything he was able to do in the kitchen before we were married. A smart move on his part.

Do you have a taste for cake? Check out these yummy books.

Every Cake Has A Story written by Christina Tosi and illustrated by Emily Balsley, Dial Books, 2021

Eat the Cake written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jana Glatt, Compendium Publishing & Communications, 2020.

Please note: Next week’s blog will be posted on Friday, January 28 to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day.


Posted January 13, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Nature

Tags: , , , , , ,

I sit here with a blank page in front of me, trying to decide what inspiring words to write today. I’m distracted by the frost on my windowpane.

I stare at the tiny crystals and their intricate designs. I am awed!

Seeing their beautiful structures, I’m reminded of a book from years ago, Snowflake Bentley. This picture book was a Caldecott Medalist in 1999. Wilson A. Bentley was the man who developed a way to photograph microscopic pictures of individual snowflakes. He discovered snowflakes are made up of ice crystals, and each snowflake has six sides. No two snowflakes are alike. The story and the information the book contains are fascinating. If you’ve never read Snowflake Bentley or haven’t read it in a while, now is a good time to sit back and enjoy this book.

Snowflake Bentley was written by the talented Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated with beautiful woodcuts created by Mary Azarian, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Winter is my second favorite season. It’s all because of how snow dresses up the landscape of a sometimes dreary winter.

Below is an action play, written by me, that was purchased by “Highlights for Children” some years ago.


Lacy little snowflakes

Flutter through the air.

(Move fingers through the air.)

Jump up and catch them.

They’re falling everywhere.

(Jump up and catch imaginary snowflakes.)

Whoosh blows the North Wind

and swirls them all around.

(Twirl in circles.)

What a merry mix-up

when they reach the ground.

(Gently fall down.)

My page is no longer blank thanks to the beauty right before my eyes. Nature is incredible! Wherever you live, take time to enjoy the beauty of the world around you.

The Aftermath of the Holidays

Posted January 6, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

Tags: , , , , , , ,

We had a delightful holiday with my daughter, son-in-law, and family. The four little ones were a sight to behold as they opened their gift from Santa. Ahh…, to be young and innocent again.

The holiday season is over, and I’m in the process of putting Christmas away. That joyful anticipation and laughter have come and gone. Now it’s time to pack up and pick up – glitter, stray ornament hooks, tree needles….

The Catch-All Pack-Up Room

Holiday memories still danced in our heads the week after Christmas until…

the aftermath.

My daughter’s babysitter was responsible enough to get a COVID test before coming to babysit at the beginning of New Year’s week. It was negative. Perfect! Unfortunately, on New Year’s Eve day she called to say her new test was positive for the Omicron variant. BAM!  

So, what do you do when your family suddenly has to quarantine? No work. No school. Test. Wait. CABIN FEVER!

My daughter put her imagination to work to keep everyone happy and entertained. Together, they created the house below. All they had to do was open, enter, and read the stash of library books inside or just play.

The COVID House

As days passed, four of the six family members came down with symptoms. All are vaccinated except the two youngest. The symptoms are on the mild to moderate side, and they’re slowly on the mend. It’s not the way you want to begin a new year.

Be safe everyone!

Out with the Old…In with the New!

Posted December 30, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Special Days

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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

~Albert Einstein

Make 2022 a year filled with kindness, compassion, and productivity!

Seasons Greetings

Posted December 23, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life


From our house to yours…

May your home be filled with the warmth and glow of love, family, and friendship this Christmas.

My Favorite Christmas Stories

Posted December 16, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Holiday Books

Tags: , , , , , ,

My all-time favorite Christmas stories are The Gift of the Magi and A Christmas Carol. Each Christmas season, I have my copies out ready to read. I never tire of the beautiful messages that are woven into the words written by O. Henry and Charles Dickens. These stories touch my heart.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Della and Jim, a young married couple, are in love. They are as poor as church mice but long to give each other a special Christmas gift – a thoughtful one to show their love. Even though neither of them has any extra money to buy an expensive gift, each is willing to sell a most precious possession to buy one. Jim sells his gold watch to buy tortoise-shell combs to adorn Della’s long hair. Della sells her hair to buy a watch fob for Jim’s watch. In the end, the expensive gifts seem a bit foolish since neither Della nor Jim can use them. So, why is the title The Gift of the Magi? The magi were wise men who traveled a long distance to give precious gifts to the baby Jesus. Although you may not agree, Della and Jim were wise when they chose their gifts for one another. The gifts represent the incredible sacrifice each was willing to make to express their love for one another. Now that’s what I call true love!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Scrooge was not always a gruff man, but over the years,  greed slowly consumed him as money became more important to him than anything and anyone else – including his only nephew, Fred who is kind-hearted, and Bob Cratchit, his clerk, who loves his large family, especially Tiny Tim who uses a crutch and wears braces on this legs. Scrooge has a cold heart and cares for no one. On Christmas eve, the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased partner in business, appears to Scrooge warning him to change his ways before it’s too late. Much to Scrooge’s dismay, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three ghosts – The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. With each ghostly visit, Scrooge’s icy heart slowly begins to melt. Scrooge remembers the happy things from his past, sees the spirit of Christmas come alive in the present as he observes the happiness in his nephew’s home and the love and warmth found in the Cratchit family’s home. By the time Scrooge meets the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, he vows to become a better man. In the following days, Scrooge reconciles with his nephew, Fred, becomes a generous benefactor in his community and is like a second father to Tiny Tim. This is a story of greed, redemption, generosity, and kindness. It’s a reminder to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long.

“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

It’s the Holiday Season

Posted December 9, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Holidays, Life and Family

Tags: , ,

No matter what holiday you celebrate, there is anticipation surrounding it – especially when children are involved. Sometimes holidays can be stressful, but I still have child-like anticipation for the Christmas season. It’s a time for making new memories and looking back at old ones that fill my heart with happiness.

What I like about December…


Decorating with natural materials.

A Sneaky Elf

The Boston Pops Holiday Concert

Holiday Baking

Swedish Limpa Bread

Decorating the Tree

Unique Ornaments

More Snowy Days

The Reason for the Season

What do you like about December?

My Favorite November Picture Book Choices

Posted December 2, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Favorite Monthly Picture Book Choices


A House written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books, 2021

The book begins with an illustration of a house. With each page turn, readers see the house with different seasonal backgrounds. The author uses shapes, colors, time of day, weather, directional words, and questions that a child can easily answer by looking at the illustrations. It’s a wonderful interactive book that ends with a family coming, not to a house, but to a home. 

Change Sings written by Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long, Viking Books for Young Readers, 2021

A young girl with a guitar strums a song that change is coming. The lyrical text combined with realistic illustrations celebrates how change can happen with simple acts of kindness. As the story grows so does the group of children following the girl. Dreams, hope, and change help make a difference in everyday lives. 

Oh Look, A Cake! written and illustrated by J.C. McKee, Clarion Books, 2021

Sloth and Lemur find a cake and want to invite others for a party. After going through a list of animals and finding excuses why not to invite them, Sloth and Lemur decide to eat the cake by themselves. Tiger appears after the cake is gone and wants to know who ate the birthday cake he made for himself. Sloth and Lemur apologize, but a disappointed Tiger knows exactly how he is going to get it back. A hilarious book!

Bear Is A Bear written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Dan Santat, Balzer + Bray, 2021

If your child has a favorite stuffed animal, this is a story to love because Bear is always there full of love. When the little girl in the story grows too big for Bear, he is stored away. But all is not what it may seem because “Bear is a bear full of love.” This is a wonderful heartwarming book for all to enjoy.

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott written by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2021

Unbound is a true story of twins, Joyce and Judith Scott. They were like two peas in a pod – inseparable. When Joyce entered school, Judith was not allowed to go because the school was not equipped to handle Judith’s Down syndrome and deafness. When the girls were eight, Judith was sent to an institution. The twins remained separated for many years until Joyce gained custody of Judith. Joyce brought Judith to her home and enrolled her in the Creative Growth Arts Center in Oakland, CA. Judith thrived there, creating sculptures made of fiber and found objects. Her artistic pieces were soon sought after, being displayed in museums and galleries. By the time of her death, Judith Scott’s work was internationally known. Melissa Sweet’s illustrations pay homage to Judith Scott’s life and art. This is a beautiful book about unconditional love, encouragement, and creativity.

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted November 25, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Special Days


Surround yourself with family and friends and embrace their love, laughter, and joy. Most of all, be thankful for even the smallest blessings in your life.

Picture Book Review: I AM SMOKE

Posted November 18, 2021 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Book Review

Tags: , , ,

I Am Smoke written by Henry Herz and illustrated by Mercè López, Tilbury House Publishers, 2021

I Am Smoke is a unique book told through the point of view of Smoke. Although Smoke can be dangerous, the author chooses to give Smoke an endearing personality by weaving scientific facts into the lyrical text and praising Smoke’s good qualities. Unlike humans, Smoke doesn’t have hands, a mouth, or a nose. Even though Smoke is missing these features, it can do many of the things humans can do. It encourages seeds to grow with its warmth. It drives pests out of enclosed places, speaks through smoke signals, gives off good-smelling scents, soothes bees, flavors and preserves foods, is used as a medicine, and eventually is recycled back to the earth. Mercè López’s multimedia artwork that includes a muted watercolor mixture of grays, blacks, earth tones, and flecks of brightness is breathtaking. The back matter provides more information that adds to the uniqueness of the story. The lyrical text of the author and the artistic talents of the illustrator result in a beautiful book that will fascinate readers of all ages. I highly recommend this book.  

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